Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump is trying to lure Joe Biden into a Walter Mondale trap — attempting to force the Democratic nominee to embrace middle-class tax increases as part of his election strategy.

Why it matters: With his Saturday evening executive action to unilaterally rewrite the tax code, Trump again is demonstrating the lengths to which he’ll go to change the conversation — and try to make the election a choice between him and Biden, and not a referendum on him.

In Biden's response, he didn’t take the bait. Instead, he used the White House effort to suspend payroll taxes as a way to double down on his appeal to seniors and cast himself as the defender of Social Security.

  • Biden called Trump's plan a "first shot in a new, reckless war on Social Security.”

The context: Trump's backers have tested the Mondale comparisons since May 2019, when Biden said in South Carolina, to applause: "First thing I’m gonna do is repeal this Trump tax cut."

  • But Biden has been more disciplined and nuanced since. He’s also stayed in touch with Mondale over the years. And as vice president, Biden studied Mondale's papers to learn from history.

What we're watching: Biden isn't opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy — he told Wall Street donors as much in June. But he’s never said he'd raise middle-class taxes.

  • Look for Trump to try and force Biden to take a more explicit position on the payroll tax suspension for those making less than $100,000.

Between the lines: Repealing tax cuts is much harder once voters get used to them.

  • President Obama campaigned on scrapping the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy.
  • But in 2012, he compromised and made them permanent for families making less than $450,000. That’s an expansive definition of the middle class.

Go deeper

Biden's hardline Russia reset

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Getty Images photos: Mark Reinstein

When he talks about Russia, Joe Biden has sounded like Ronald Reagan all summer, setting up a potential Day 1 confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin if Biden were to win.

Why it matters: Biden has promised a forceful response against Russia for both election interference and alleged bounty payments to target American troops in Afghanistan. But being tougher than President Trump could be the easy part. The risk is overdoing it and making diplomacy impossible.

Biden on presidential mask mandate: "Our legal team thinks I can do that"

Biden waves as he leaves a hotel in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware Wednesday he believes he would have the legal authority as president to issue a nationwide mandate to wear face masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus if needed.

Details: "Our legal team thinks I can do that, based upon the degree to which there's a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country," Biden said.

Mike Allen, author of AM
17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Mike Bloomberg's anti-chaos theory

CNN's Anderson Cooper questions Joe Biden last night at a drive-in town hall in Moosic, Pa., outside Scranton. Photo: CNN

Mike Bloomberg's $100 million Florida blitz begins today and will continue "wall to wall" in all 10 TV markets through Election Day, advisers tell me.

Why it matters: Bloomberg thinks that Joe Biden putting away Florida is the most feasible way to head off the national chaos we could have if the outcome of Trump v. Biden remained uncertain long after Election Day.